End of the line for daycare

Children enjoy the playground at Beaches Child Care, which backs onto a ravine, after the non-profit day care's annual general meeting and family picnic. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Children enjoy the playground at Beaches Child Care, which backs onto a ravine, after the non-profit day care’s annual general meeting and family picnic on June 25.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Right to the end, Shelly Zorzit felt sure that Beaches Child Care Centre would stay open next fall. But looking back, the board president says the Upper Beach daycare might have run out of time even before she joined the effort to save it, a year and a half ago.

A non-profit, licensed daycare for toddlers and pre-schoolers, the Beaches Child Care Centre is scheduled to shut down after August 27.

The two-storey home that housed the daycare on a ravine property just east of Kingston Road and Main Street is set to be redeveloped as a condo.

Even after three years of searching and $200,000 in funding, Zorzit and the other volunteer board members could not find another place for the daycare to go.

“This is not how I thought the story would end,” Zorzit said, speaking to fellow parents at a June 25 annual meeting that doubled as a goodbye barbecue.

“Full-time, affordable, quality child care has now become even more difficult to find.”

The closure means that nine full-time child care staff and a cook will need to find other work in the fall. About 40 local families will also need to find other options for their children’s care.

Zorzit, a public school teacher whose daughter went to the daycare, said Beaches Child Care started its search for a new location at a difficult time. The daycare lost about a third of its revenue when full-day kindergarten programs started at local schools.

But even so, it seemed the board came very close to securing a new spot.

“We had three locations, three separate intent-to-lease agreements, and three separate times when it fell through,” she said.

Under those agreements, Zorzit explained, landlords gave the daycare 30 days to have the City of Toronto and Ontario’s education ministry review the prospective sites to see if they met the criteria for licensed childcare.

“It’s not just finding an affordable spot, but also finding one that can be zoned for childcare and licensed by the ministry,” she said. “There are many layers of complexity.”

The daycare hired a consultant with expertise in real estate and in the legislation governing licensed child care, she said. Later, the daycare tried a real estate agent, to see if they might uncover a hidden opportunity.

Despite their efforts, and the many board members like Zorzit who made bedtime reading of Ontario’s Day Nurseries Act, no winning spot was found.

“I’m really starting to worry about Toronto,” said Zorzit.

“I’m worried that quality child care is going to be another thing that only the really rich can afford.”

Lynda Cartier has enjoyed 25 years as a junior room teacher at the daycare — one of many long-time staff.

At the BBQ, Zorzit asked her to speak a little about the daycare’s history. Cartier started when the daycare was Tiny Tots Village, a private daycare that was the legacy of Dr. Herman Lieve and his wife Aurora. It became a non-profit thanks to a post-recession grant in 1994.

Cartier recalled the fall that the daycare re-opened with its new name, and its funders insisted that Beaches Childcare buy more toys and books. A big truck pulled up one day from Toys ‘R Us.

“They parked outside the junior room window, and I’ll never forget lifting the children up to show them the truck with all the new toys in it,” she said.

Perched on the southern slope of Glen Davis Ravine, Cartier said the daycare has also been lucky to have such a wonderful yard, with a grassy hill kids love to roll down, and even the odd deer peeking over the fence.

“There’s so much room to run and play,” she said.

“It’s just been a wonderful place to be.”

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